It’s unclear how a referendum on secession, a longtime dream of nationalists such as actor Sean Connery, would fare at the polls. Although plenty of Scots favor unyoking themselves from England and Wales in theory, breaking up the union that has existed officially since 1707 would be very complicated.
A Scottish leader’s declaration that he planned a referendum on full independence from Britain in two years sparked a fierce debate in the British Parliament on Wednesday.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the ruling Scottish National Party, announced Tuesday night in a BBC interview that he planned to hold a referendum on full independence in the fall of 2014.
Independence was part of his party’s manifesto when it surged to a landslide victory in Scottish parliamentary elections in May. It was the first time any grouping had won a majority in the devolved Parliament since the assembly was established in Edinburgh in 1999.
Whether Salmond’s unilateral decision on a referendum is constitutional is now a bone of contention in Britain’s Parliament, where Salmond also sits as a lawmaker.
British government Scottish Minister Michael Moore told parliament Wednesday: “As things currently stand, the Scottish government does not have the legal power to hold a referendum…. We need to provide that power by working with them.”
In an attempt to deflect an outright hostile confrontation over national and constitutional rights in the country’s Supreme Court, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he too was keen to start a debate to devolve the necessary legal powers to Scotland to start the referendum process.